Disclaimer: I do not own Pet Shop of Horrors, nor Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo.
There are many strange and wonderful things found in this world, and even more than could not be explained by the human consciousness. One thing that is brought to mind is the ship that D built, or, really the pet shop that D inherited from his grandfather, also with the name D, but with the title of Count, bestowed by the king of a country that disappeared in the annals of time. As with all things, it had rules attached. First, the mission of the D Kami was to protect and ensure the future of all creatures, rare and mundane. Second, the shop is meant to punish the wicked humans for the deeds that they have bestowed upon themselves since the beginning of their own history. And third, No human is allowed to become a pet, nor board the actual ship.
Leon Orcot walked down the street of another city, in yet another city, nose in the local guidebook in search of the local Chinatown, but more specifically, a certain pet shop that had a tendency to find itself in the streets of the local Chinatown. Years ago, he had been a detective of the Los Angeles Police Department, but that had been before he had come into the young man's life… or more like when he had decided to investigate a certain series of interesting almost-crimes that seemed to trace back to a shop that at that time was called Count D's Pet Shop. A Pet Shop of Horrors it seemed like at times, where the purveyor promised to sell love and dreams that often turned to fear and nightmares. His career had come to an abrupt end nearly two years after stepping into that incensed building, an accident involving Count D the Second and his own host of creatures of nearly-mythic proportion nearly killing him, but only managing to wound him, a claw severing his thigh, muscle and nerves cleanly rendered useless for any future continuation of law enforcement.
He still used a brace at times, hidden underneath his ragged jeans as he fell onto the bench seat that he nearly passed. A new rash of deaths linked to mysterious circumstances and animals had led Leon to Tokyo, Japan, more specifically the Red Light district, where businesses catering to human desires flourished. Over his journey, with only a duffel bag filled with essentials such as clothing and Chris' drawing, he had learned that his usual way of finding information that had worked so well as a detective in an interrogation, had no such effect in the cities that he had come to afterward, especially in those that were non-English speaking, and doubly so in the Chinatowns that called themselves home in such cities. Often he found himself working backwards, such as in Berlin where he found that the story about the first Count D in an old photograph he had seen in a picture frame shop. Or about D's father in a New York Chinatown. France, Sidney, Brussels, Dublin, Athens, nearly all of the major Chinatowns had hosted a pet shop run by a D at one point or another.
Yawning, Leon stretched over the back of the bench, wincing at hearing a few of his vertebrae popping back into place. The traveling had been harsh, not allowing for more than a brief respite in each city to look for and around the local Chinatown before moving on to the next. One thing he did promise himself though, was to include Chris into this adventure, though small his brother's part was. He always made time to send out a postcard of the local Chinatown, sometimes with a note, sometimes not more than a poorly drawn smilie face and no return address. Chris was technically the only family he had left, and he intended not to let him go like he had for the first six years of his life. Chris had already received a card from Nagasaki, and as soon as Leon found a post office, he would send one labeled from Kobe as well (depicting a very happy cow, though crudely drawn).
Putting the postcard and picture away safely in his duffel, Leon imagined himself a cat and that was what others saw him as. Though as a cat, he looked more like a miniature lion with a ruff of longer yellow fur around his head and neck. If there was one thing that Leon had learned while knowing D, was that if people believed something, that it was generally true for that person. At the pet shop, those that believed that there were pets there, saw animals. Those that saw people, saw only the type of person that they wanted. And then there were the select few that were like his brother and saw the animals as they truly saw themselves: individuals. For the longest time Leon only saw the animals as he believed that they were: animals, below humans in every right. It took that brief time, that wonderfully-painfully brief time, on board of D's ship to start seeing animals as they truly were. After that, it was slow at first, but he slowly saw the animals as who they really were, no the creatures to be conquered, but equals, no, rulers of this planet that humans had the gall to call their own. At first the animals' true forms were like ghosts, glimmers out of the corner of his eye, but they gradually became solid, their 'animal' forms nearly disappearing.
Putting his nose up, he smelled the air and tasted the faint tang that belonged to the incense that was distinctly D's. It had happened slowly, but as he realized that he could see animals in their true forms, that he started to see humans as the beasts that they felt themselves to be inside. The business man checking his watch as he crossed the street in front of where Leon padded, for example, was a mongoose, or at least a weasel of sorts, with his close eyes and long body. It was only a manner of time before Leon learned that as the 'pets' of the shop could become nearly human, humans could very nearly become their inner beast, for it only took a force of will and patience to find one's true self. His was a lion, as his mother had pointed out on more than one occasion, but she would be surprised how true her words had been in the past. His mother, Leon closed his eyes at her memory, she was like a magpie, a beautiful dark bird that seemed to know everything and have the intelligent look to match.
Crossing the street, Leon sat down at the front doors of a tall building, waiting for the opportune time to slip in unnoticed. The incense was stronger; D was definitely in this building, if he hadn't very recently left again. A woman opened the glass door, holding a covered bird cage in one hand, confirming that the pet shop was still there. He gave a kitty-grin and slipped in, unnoticed by the lady, but definitely by the bird, as it squawked an indignant 'Oi!' as it was cut off by the closing glass door. Wandering around inside, Leon sniffed, trying to find D's shop by scent alone, but various restaurants and the air conditioning didn't help any. Ah, air conditioning, how long had it been since he had last felt it ruffle his fur, err, hair? Sitting down in the middle of the floor, he closed his eyes and just savored the feeling of artificial cooling.
"Hey, you," Leon was picked up by the ruff of his neck roughly and raised to eye level, "you're one of D's pets, aren't you? Lets take you back to the shop already and let D handle you." The man shook his head, admonishing himself for talking to a common house cat. Up to the thirteenth level they rode in an exclusive elevator, the man holding Leon away from his pristine black suit so as to not get any fur on it. Struggling at first, Leon couldn't quite hide the wince at the pain of being improperly held and unsupported. Mentally apologizing to every cat he had ever held this way, he gave a weak meow in protest, asking to be let down. "Yeah, complain all you want, you're going back to D's shop… I don't blame you though, there are strange things around that guy. And one of these days I'm going to catch him selling those prostitutes also." Leon rolled his eyes and watched the man in the reflection of the glass elevator. A tiger, solitary and defends its territory fiercely while trying to expand, though curious when given the opportunity.
"Myrr-n," Leon willed the man to hear him, 'good luck with that… and… thank you,' as they stepped out of the elevator. The man almost seemed to hear him, but shook his head like a fly was bothering him. Looking ahead, Leon smelled the incense as strong as ever as they came up to the shop. The sign was different, as well as the decoration on either side of the door, but it was the same, it was D's shop.
The man entered the shop and was greeted by D's usual line and a bow, "Welcome to Count D's Pet Shop, we have… Leon!"
Said cat raised a paw as much as he could in greeting and gave a sheepish look. "Rar!" 'H-hey D!'
"So he's yours then after all," he handed the cat to a stunned D, "please keep a better track on your merchandise, I found him wondering around downstairs."
"A-ah, yes Taizou. I'll make sure to keep a better eye on him next time." D gave Leon a warning look and set him down on the couch next to Tetsu. "Would you like to come in and have some tea?"
"No, thank you this time, some of us still have work to do around here." Taizou adjusted his lapels, brushing off imaginary cat fur, and left.
"Heh," Tetsu turned to Leon from where he leaned against one arm of the couch to look at the man/cat sitting cross-legged on the other end, "never thought I'd see you again, especially like that." In comparison to Tetsu's harem pants, embroidered vest and jewelry, Leon looked like rubbish with faded, no-knee jeans, a threadbare green T-shirt with a golden lion on it and a black school-uniform style jacket over top that seemed like it was the newest thing in his ensemble.
"Yes, Detective, care to explain why you have chased me all the way to Tokyo?" D sat down in a wingback chair opposite the couch, leaning forward with his chin resting on interlaced fingers, a touch of irritation under his usual calm façade. Even the reception room looked different, the furniture, how things were set up, and especially the animals. They were of the same types that were in the states, but all of the animals in the front room were in individual cages instead of loose and interacting with the customers like he was used to. Only a few like Tetsu were free to roam around.
"I… err…" Leon blushed and busied himself with digging through his bag for something. Pulling out a few odds and clothes, he finally found a wrapped package with a ribbon around it, "I brought you some nirikiri." Leon handed over the marzipan-like mochi shapes. The soft rice-flour confections held various shapes, but the centerpiece was a green tree sprinkled with confectioner's sugar to look like snow.
D took the treat with a small smile, "I have a tea that will go well with this, Detective, but you have yet to explain yourself." The Chinese Kami went into the back rooms of the shop and returned a few minutes later with a tea service for two and Leon's peace offering arranged artfully on a pedestal plate.
Gratefully taking the tea cup that D handed him, Leon downed half the cup before gaining the courage to speak, "Please call me Leon. I'm not working for the police any more, not since…" D nodded, understanding, seeing Leon adjust his leg uncomfortably while he sat. "I-I" Leon cleared his throat nervously, "Watashi… ah, sorry," Leon managed to look contrite at his slip into the Japanese he'd been using for the past month, "I wanted to give you this." He put the simple frame that was in his bag on the table, face down, and slid it over to D, "It meant a lot to Chris that I get this back to you." Leon stood up and bowed clumsily. "I guess I'll go now." Leon didn't look up, not wanting to see D, or to have the Kami read his eyes like he was so prone to do.
"De-Leon, wait." D stood up, his hand out in a peace gesture. "… Where are you staying tonight?"
Leon shrugged, his hand on the door handle, "Dunno. Probably the alleyway a few buildings down like any stray, human or animal, until I can find a way to scrape enough money to go back to the states."
"Stay here then, Leon, I still have Chris' room if you want." D had said what they both wanted to hear, but Leon winced away the unwelcome hope that fluttered in his stomach.
"You know I can't do that, D. Human's haven't earned the right to board your ship yet, and despite what I may fool others into thinking at times, I'm still a human." Tetsu laughed from the couch, watching the dramatics and D couldn't help but smile, shaking his head in denial.
"You are the one exception to the rule, Leon. You have been blessed to have been able to see the ship once, and you have found your way back. Grandfather cannot argue your staying any longer." D gave Leon a curious look, tilting his head with a finger on his chin, as the young Lion refused to turn away from the door. "Besides, I am curious, I did not think you would be a common house cat, though an interestingly colored one."
Leon braved a wry grin, turning towards D, "A grown lion in downtown Tokyo… I would have been either shot on sight or brought to you faster, and I don't think the latter would have happened unless I was luckier than you know I am."
"Come then," D reached his arm out to gather Leon back into the store, "I believe I have a job for you next week. But first, some new clothes… and a bath." Leon backpedaled, trying to get out of the kami's surprisingly strong grip, at the word 'bath,' like all cats are known to do. D had a grip on the back of Leon's neck and he wasn't going to let go any time soon.
"Hey!" Tetsu laughed from the couch, getting up and stretching, "glad to have you back!" With that, the man-eater scampered down the halls to tell the residents that their favorite, or at least his, chew-toy was back to stay.
The next week found Leon alone in the shop, supervising the animals and shooing customers away. Supervising was actually a strong word, more like making sure that the animals that had a tendency toward aggression were fed, which was relatively easy to do, seeing that he was now technically one of them, and Tetsu followed him around, making sure that he stayed in line.
D had cleaned him up well, supplying him with a suit to wear while turning away customers and a pair of dark glasses that hid his blue cat-like eyes that sometimes appeared. D had even insisted that it would be more professional if Leon took up putting his hair into a ponytail again, slicked back of course. His wild mane of hair was only acceptable when he wasn't helping around the shop, the same with his ratty jeans and threadbare shirt, ironic as it was, depicting a golden lion.
"Welcome," Leon answered the door for a woman and her cicada. She looked frazzled and nearly pushed the male into the shop, trying to give him back. The boy was obviously confused, not understanding why his master was trying to give him back to the store.
"Huh?" the woman looked around, "Where is the person from yesterday?" She had obviously come before Leon had shown up yesterday, and hadn't seen him before.
"Count D? He has gone to America for an important business negotiation about a pet." Of course what D was desperate for the previous week was a shop-sitter, what with his grandfather and father too busy at the moment. And there was no way that he would close the shop down completely or leave one of the pets in control, that was just begging for trouble. Actually, technically, he was 'one of the pets' now, but this had been a trial-basis thing. He was getting paid, yes, and when D got back, he would have to decide whether he would take the money and leave, or stay and help manage the shop. Every day it seemed harder to think about leaving, he didn't know if that was that damned incense or that he actually felt like he was home, a feeling that he hadn't had since Chris was born.
"America?!" The woman seemed on the verge on a panic attack.
"He'll return in about a week." Leon tried to calm her, all the while trying not to laugh at the same time.
"A week?!" Yes, the woman just about had it, trying to shove the boy towards me again. "Anyways, it seems like there was some sort of misunderstanding yesterday. I am definitely returning this child. Please tell him that."
Leon shook his head and did his best impression of D's smile, "I see… However… I'm simply a caretaker, and I don't know the full situation." I gently pushed the boy back to the owner. She obviously hadn't accepted readily that her cicada had shown her his human form, and wasn't really a human child. The count had given him to her for a reason, and it wasn't Leon's place to ruin D's contracts for him anymore. "I'm very sorry, but could you return him next week?" Shoving them out the door, Leon merely gave her another apology and shut the door, sliding down the door frame and rubbing his temples.
"Just think," Tetsu spoke up from casually gnawing on a rib that he had just picked clean, "That's what you'll be doing all week, and that was one of the better ones that I've seen."
Leon looked up at the Toutetsu, giving him a dry look, "Wonderful." With that he stood up again, adjusted his suit vest, and poured some tea to wait for the next person. It would be a long week without the Count.
I always wanted a happy ending for Leon, for him to catch up with D to give back Chris' drawing. I had always thought that since the animals can have a humanoid form, why can't humans find their inner beast? Leon had a lot of time to think by himself, and with a touch of D's magic it seemed possible. And in the epilogue of the first series it seemed as if Leon had disappeared beyond where Chris could reach. The story concludes in the first book of Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo chapter Double-booking. I thought that the shop-sitter had similar characteristics to Leon, thus this story was born. I apologize if this had any spoilers in it for you. And to those readers waiting for the next chapter of Honda Constellations or Birth Marks, I needed something to loosen up my fingers to storytelling once again. I promise that I will get new chapters out… eventually.
Dark Inu Fan